|A children's movie can be successful by only being entertaining for the under ten set, and a good children's film can impress all ages of audience members. Like Mike hovers somewhere in the middle. It's not a repellant children's film that would only be enjoyed by the youngest members of the audience, but neither will it fully impress the older viewers. This film has its charming moments, and parents who take their children to this film probably won't look at their watch more than once or twice. The film's reletively short running time assures that the time spent in the theater for this film is not too long for adults.|
Possibly the best part of this film is that the humor of it is so innocent. Missing are the karate chops and violence of such children's films as The Power Rangers and the language in the film is youth friendly as well. The film has all the elements of a classic sports fantasy story and uses to the hilt every child's dream of becoming a sports star. Like , this film uses a magical element to make it possible for the very short "Calvin Cambridge," played by the very short Lil Bow Wow, to enter the NBA. Calvin gets an old pair of sneakers that were donated to the orphan's home he lives in that have the initials "M.J." written inside. The shoes are old and ragged, yet the fit Calvin's feet perfectly.
Calvin and his friends, played by Jonathan Lipnicki and Brenda Song, immediately think that those initials belong to NBA great, Michael Jordan. Calvin then proceeds to win a special halftime one on one session with NBA player "Tracey Reynolds," played by Morris Chestnut. And after he wins, Calvin is convinced that the shoes allowed him to do it and the NBA is convinced that Calvin can really play. And so begins the orphan's fantasy run as an NBA player. The usual elements of this type of fantasy story are all present, including the evil guy intent on using Calvin's talent for his own purposes, the big bully who wants to lay a smack down on Calvin, and the heartwarming element of Calvin's search for a family of his own.
All the requirements are there, and the end result is a children's film with more than average entertainment value. One of the only things missing is originality. The story is so standard that the surprises are very few. And that puts a lot of pressure on the actors to make sure the film doesn't drag. And usually, it doesn't. Morris Chestnut and Lil Bow Wow make a good team on screen (no pun intended) and their exchanges are alternately comedic and heartwarming. It's probably one of the most required elements of a sports fantasy that the film includes some mushy scenes where the main character learns some type of lesson. And given that this film was made for children, it's good to see that, in addition to the lack of crass humor and violence, the film gives the children in the audience a good lesson from which to learn.
But lessons aside, Chestnut and Lil Bow Wow really are an entertaining duo. This is a compliment to their talent, especially since the film is pretty predictable. Their performances are good enough to make most viewers forget that they've seen this story before. The film isn't particularly smart, it's just a typical endearing sports story that will get the kids to shut-up and watch for most of the running time. But there's a strange element to this film, which includes some of the most vigorous merchandising that any company has undertaken in recent years. The NBA actually helped to produce this movie, and made sure that their logo was plastered into just about every scene. Sometimes, this logo was quite hard to ignore. Even in the scenes that weren't showing a basketball court, nine times out of ten, the logo popped up somewhere.
There is a scene where Lil Bow Wow's character is standing in an empty arena on the floor of the basketball court and the camera swings around him as he looks around, awed. When the camera comes to rest, a giant sign with NBA.com is visible behind him. It takes up half the screen in back of Bow Wow's character. It's somewhat disconcerting to see that the NBA actually helped to produce this film, rather than just have their logos on the screen. It takes some of the innocence away from this picture knowing that the NBA so heavily sponsored it. It is probably a credit to the actors that the film doesn't just resemble an hour and a half long commercial for the NBA. Though there are enough logos plastered throughout the movie to last a lifetime, there is still enough humor to make the piece an entertaining comedy with a good message for children.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.